8 negative thoughts that could be stopping us from connecting
1 I’ve messed it up too many times before
If we are feeling lonely, we can drift towards a pessimistic general outlook about things, and consequently blame ourselves for not having been able to achieve satisfactory relationships in the past. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in which pre-conceived notions about ourselves result in further unsatisfactory relationships which in turn result in more negative self-talk leading to further social isolation. At some point we need to break the cycle. The past is gone. The future awaits us. If we can recognise this, we can truly believe the next time can be different. And it can.
2 I don’t need others to validate me
Why should the foundation of my self-esteem and self-confidence rest in the hands of other people? Well…it shouldn’t. We shouldn’t rely on others to validate our sense of self. However, disregarding any input about ourselves from other people can leave us feeling somewhat estranged. It’s true that if we spend time with other people, they are likely to give us their opinions at some point. And those opinions might include what they think and feel about us. But we don’t have to accept these opinions. We can question them or at least challenge them. You never know, we might actually like what they have to say about us. That can happen as well.
3 I’m no good at relationships anyway
Often, we can set ourselves impossible standards to live up to in relationships. Unless we’re the wittiest, most empathic, bright and sensitive of companions, we should just leave it. But relationships come in all different shapes and sizes, and our own unique set of personality traits – no matter what they are – might just be what another is looking for. Who wants to be with the perfect person anyway? It’s just too much pressure.
4 I’m in a bad place at the moment… so other people will have to wait
This sounds reasonable. If we’re feeling low or anxious being around other people, what chance is there of making a connection with someone? However, this kind of thinking can become a vicious circle: withdrawal from others can cause our low mood and anxiety to escalate further. We can break this cycle with graduated exposure. Just a half hour Zoom call with a work colleague or friend or support group member; if this goes ok, we can try 40 minutes, then 50. There are no rules. We can set the rules for ourselves. At our own pace.
5 People are just too demanding
One of the key reasons many of us may find ourselves lonely is that we find other people too difficult to deal with and we just prefer our own company. Valuing our own company is a good thing. Right? Yes…but if we are 100% totally satisfied with ourselves, it might be very difficult to open ourselves up to potential connections with others.
6 See, I knew it would be like this
There is evidence that many of us have a sort of negativity bias in evaluating social interactions. If we are already feeling lonely, we can pick up on signs of potential rejection more quickly than other people; and as a consequence, we may think it’s perhaps better to avoid other people and protect ourselves. But if we can become aware of this negative filter, we can attempt to override it by being more open to positive outcomes rather than just focusing on what could go wrong. Just for once, we might ask ourselves: what could go right?
7 Everyone’s too busy for real relationships
Sometimes it seems our hyperactive modem lives aren’t adapted to forming deep relationships. This is what we tell ourselves anyway. But it may just be that our existing friends and acquaintances have entered a new phase in their lives (haven’t we all?) This may mean they no longer have time for the things we used to do with them. But if they’ve changed, we can change as well. Time to seek out more time-friendly people perhaps.
8 It’s just all too stressful
Feeling lonely, we are more likely to disengage or withdraw from further seemingly unnecessary stressors. Withdrawing from stressful circumstances is reasonable in certain instances, but when applied to our everyday need to belong, it can lead to an accumulation of stress that becomes increasingly taxing and oppressive, leading to further withdrawal and isolation. Then it really is time to talk to someone.